Horton Halfpott

30 10 2012

Dickensian [dɪˈkɛnzɪən] adj

1. either from or related to Charles Dickens (1812-70), the English novelist, or his works

2. resembling or suggesting conditions described in Dickens’ novels, especially squalid and poverty-stricken working conditions were truly Dickensian

3.  grotesquely comic, as some of the characters of Dickens

In every sense of that definition Horton Halfpott: or The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor or  The Loosening of M’Lady Luggertuck’s Corset by Tom Angleberger is Dickensian.

Alright, a few years from now, as Tom Angleberger’s books gain more and more popularity – hilarious comedies with memorable characters in ridiculous situations may come to be known as Anglebergian, but for now, Angleberger is going to have to settle for his book being Dickensian.

It certainly resembles the works of Charles Dickens.  Set in Smugwick Manor, the labyrinth like mansion of the Luggertuck family, Horton Halfpott is filled with characters that had to be inspired by Boz himself.  The story takes place in Victorian England, just like Dickens stories, and, just as Dickens did, Angleberger creates a cast of characters made up of weak servants that are mistreated, rich snobs that you love to hate (and Dickens loved to mock), a bumbling detective, and a helpless waif of a hero that just needs someone to give him a leg up.  The book is worth reading for the names themselves – The evil Luther Luggertuck, Horton Halfpott (a pint sized hero who washes pots and pans), Celia Sylvan-Smythe (who Luther and Horton want to sit in a tree with… yeah, we all know what they want to do in that tree), Loafburton (the baker), the Shipless Pirates, the bumbling detective Portney St. Pomfrey, and the other servants – Bump, Blight, and Blemish.

The servants at Smugwick Manor work in hilarious, but hideous, conditions that give you the “grotesquely comic” that worked so well for Dickens, but makes you root for them that much more, all while laughing at the ridiculous roles each of them is given in the household.  Of course, the best of all is Horton Halfpott himself, the small boy who doesn’t seem to have anything going right in his life reminds readers of Oliver Twist or David Copperfield in so many ways.   Horton’s life is so awful that you just have to laugh at each crazy thing that happens to him.

The main conflict in the story is the zany disappearance of the Luggertuck’s priceless gem – The Lump.  Of course, our hapless hero, Horton Halfpott is the lead suspect in the crime, because this story is Dickensian, so Horton’s life has to get continuously more and more awful.  However, it’s these problems, as well as all the twists and turns that make Oliver Twist such a fun read, that make this book so great.  Horton finds himself in so scary, exciting, and interesting predicaments as the mystery unfolds that you just can’t put the book down.  I highly recommend this on, as well as any other Anglebergian adventures you might find in the library.